The Jew And The Carrot

Putting the 'Green' in Greenburgh Hebrew Center

By Kayla Glick

  • Print
  • Share Share
Wikimedia

Introducing Rabbi Barry Kenter and his synagogue, the Greenburgh Hebrew Center, current fellows in the Jewish Greening Fellowship cohort! Kenter is an alumnus of the GreenFaith Fellowship as well, which seeks to “inspire, educate and mobilize people of diverse religious backgrounds for environmental leadership.” Though there is considerable overlap between the GreenFaith and Jewish Greening fellowships, Kenter notes that they differ because of the JGF’s uniquely Jewish mission.

Kenter’s environmental awareness and involvement was sparked by his youth in California, where he was surrounded by smog. “As a student, my peers and I had been taught how Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo sailed into la Bahia de los Fumos et los Fuegos, the Bay of Smoke and Fire, now San Pedro and the Port of Los Angeles,” said Kenter. The smog around him was a constant manifestation of this smoke and fire. “How I longed for the Santa Ana winds of fall, winter and early spring that would blow through the canyons and leave a crisp azure blue sky in its wake,” he remarked.

As a camper at Ramah in Ojai, California, already having experienced the Sierra with his family, there was an opportunity to encounter its unparalleled beauty once again. Camping alongside the Yosemite River, eating, praying, travelling and studying underneath massive redwoods was nothing short of breath-taking. He remembered that surrounded by the scent of evergreens, the ripple of water, birdsong and animal sounds, it easy to proclaim as part of prayer, “How wondrous are your works, Lord!”

His education about air quality led to a desire to contribute to making a difference for the earth. Through his work with the GreenFaith and Jewish Greening fellowships, the Greenburgh Hebrew Center has enacted many changes. Among them are large scale projects, like installing solar panels, building energy audits, and temperature control of the building, to smaller changes, such as using real dishes in programming that involves food, using eco-friendly cleaning products, and reducing pesticides and herbicides on the synagogue’s lawn. Other projects include enrollment of congregants in a CSA (community supported agriculture.)

As the physical building and synagogue practices change, Kenter is working to change the congregation’s environmental awareness and education as well. This year the synagogue’s annual tashlich program at the Hudson River will focus on renewing the river as well as ourselves. Kenter strives to make the connection between Jewish values and environmental values clear. Additionally, greening is part of the synagogue’s religious school curriculum. Kenter believes that Jewish text and tradition emphasizes that as Jews and as humans we are partners with God in environmental stewardship. One text that particularly speaks to him comes from Midrash Kohelet Rabbah 7:13, which states that this earth is the only one we have, which is why it is so precious and worth protecting. The Midrash says:

When God created the first human beings, God led them around all the trees of the Garden of Eden and said: “Look at My works! See how beautiful they are—how excellent! For your sake I created them all. See to it that you do not spoil and destroy My world; for if you do, there will be no one else to repair it.”

Through his time participating in the GreenFaith and Jewish Greening fellowships, Kenter has not only made changes at his institution, but has also come to understand sustainability in a new way. “I have an increased awareness of my choices and a stronger commitment to cherishing and protecting the environment. Now I see this as a Jewish issue as much as anything else,” he said. This has impacted his personal practices at home, which now include using less water, being more mindful of the lights, and trying to use less paper. “As a Rabbi, using less paper is hard,” said Kenter. “Sometimes you need paper when teaching text, but I am starting to use less.”

Kayla Glick is passionate about learning about and discussing the many corners of the food-conscious world. She explored this interest last summer as a fellow at Urban Adamah, and continues to do so this summer as an intern at Hazon. In her free time she can be found eating pickles, trying to learn guitar, and reading any blog she can get her (digital) hands on.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: sustainability, Jewish Greening Fellowship

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.